Monday, September 4, 2017

Sarasota's Bahi Hut tiki bar: a trip back through time

How to time travel: Pull the wooden spoon door handle. Take a whiff of stale cigarette smoke. Step inside. Allow your eyes to adjust to the dark room. Look around. Welcome to 1954. Welcome to Sarasota's Bahi Hut.

Growing up in Orlando, I was lucky enough to have a grandmother that took me to the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World every other weekend. My favorite land was, and still is, Adventureland. We even stopped by the Polynesian Resort once in awhile via monorail for a look around. My favorite cups to drink out of when I was a kid were old tiki and buddha glasses my mom bought at Goodwill. I still have a couple of them. As a young adult, I owned a rusty VW Westfalia camper bus with green shag carpet, bamboo curtains, and a shrunken head hanging from the rearview mirror.

Needless to say, I've been a tiki fanatic since wayback. So, when I finally got the chance to visit the famous Bahi Hut in Sarasota, I was thrilled to visit a past I never lived but one I've dreamed of my entire life. The experience is truly like stepping back into time. Nothing seems to have changed since the bar opened in 1954. And I say this in reverence. Mid-century-modern light fixtures barely illuminate the room, but they do it gloriously. The same faded paneling, the same faded artwork, and the same "Polynesian" carvings hang on the walls. Oh, if those walls could talk.

Of course there are island-themed drinks, but, alas, they don't come in ceramic tiki mugs. They are strong, however, very strong. In fact, there's a two-drink limit on the Mai Tai. Other libations include the Sneaky Tiki, the Scoobey Snack, and the Passionate Ultimate Screw. The only food option is a small dish of pretzels served with your cocktail. There is a vintage cigarette machine in the hallway to the bathrooms.

So, I know tiki isn't for everyone. Not everyone can appreciate the truly remarkable era of the tiki lounge, the deliciously sweet and decadent cocktails, and the tiki motif that stole from Polynesian culture, mixed it with mid-century modern, and elevated it to art. Most simply regard tiki as quaint or cheesy, and the epitome of bad decor choices. Not everyone gets tiki, but I do, and I know there are many out there like me. Long live tiki and long live Bahi Hut.

Take a look around...

Bahi Hut is located on the north side of Sarasota on Tamiami Trail, and is a part of the Golden Host Resort hotel.

Bahi Hut
Golden Host Resort
4675 N. Tamiami Trail
Sarasota, FL 34234

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